October 05, 2010
Unsung Heroes Key Big Win In Miami
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
MIAMI -- Oh, the headlines you can attach to this game.
Patriots take the Dolphins out to the Woodhead.
There's a new movie out entitled Being Rob Ninkovich.
Everybody Pat Chung tonight. (You have to think back to 1980s rock and roll for that one.)
What was turning into another moribund display of horrid Patriot defense turned into Miami turnovers and putrid special teams play. The Dolphins wounded themselves more than the Patriots did, but it was enough to propel the Patriots to a 41-14 win at Sun Life Stadium on Monday night. It was a richly satisfying victory for the Patriots, winning a road game in a humid stadium they normally do poorly in.
This game went against the grain in so many ways. The Patriots played better in the second half than the first. They won a road game, something they failed to do last year, Europe and Buffalo notwithstanding. Guys who aren't known for big plays came up big for the Patriots, and their defense was able to grow up a bit against a mistake-prone Miami offense.
The first half saw Miami dominate the game, but led only 7-6 at the intermission. The fact that Miami led by only one point despite literally breezing through the Patriot defense seemed to foreshadow good things in the future for the visitors. Patrick Chung was burned on a 19-yard touchdown pass by Davone Bess, a play where he blew the coverage out of a stack formation, giving Miami their only score of the first half. Chad Henne was having no trouble finding receivers, and hit on his first seven passes of the evening. Bess caught two of them for 40 yards, including his touchdown.
But Rob Ninkovich almost singlehandedly kept the Patriots in the game, intercepting Henne twice in the first half. His first pick was in the right flat as he stepped in front of Brandon Marshall to stop the first Miami drive after the touchdown. He stopped the next drive as well, again in the right flat as he jumped the route to Lousaka Polite. The Patriots could only manage two Stephen Gostkowski field goals off of the picks, but the picks themselves were damaging enough.
The game picked up for the Patriots instantly as the second half began. Brandon Tate took the opening kickoff of the third quarter and ran it back 103 yards for a touchdown, his second kickoff return of the year. After stopping Miami on a three-and-out, Chung blocked Brandon Fields' punt, and the Patriots had the ball at the Miami 15. Two plays later, BenJarvus Green-Ellis blasted up the middle and scored from 12 yards out to give the Patriots a quick 20-7 lead.
The Dolphins answered with an eight-play drive, as Ricky Williams took a right screen pass and ran it in from 28 yards out to cut the Patriot lead to 20-14. That would be it for the Miami offense for the rest of the night.
Tom Brady said at his postgame presser last week that he didn't know who Danny Woodhead was. It's likely he knows who he is now, as Woodhead was the center of the offense on the next drive. He had six touches out of the 12 plays, including the final 11 yards for a touchdown, much the same way Green-Ellis scored on his touchdown.
The ensuing Miami drive ended in disaster, worse than the other miscues. Dan Carpenter was brought in to attempt a 54-yard field goal. Chung came up the middle totally unblocked and managed to block his second kick of the night. As the ball rolled towards the Patriot end zone, Jarrad Page slapped at the ball and it fell into the arms of Kyle Arrington, who scooped it up and took it 35 yards into the end zone for a 34-14 Patriot lead.
Chung had one more moment of high glory. Two drives later, Miami had the ball at their own 47. Henne dropped back and delivered a perfect laser into the arms of Chung, who took it 53 yards for the final score of the evening. The throw encapsulated the lousy night that Henne had, as there was no Dolphin receiver anywhere near Chung.
This doesn't mean that the Patriots have a dominating defense. The Dolphins did more to hurt themselves than the Patriots did. Miami still managed to amass 400 total yards of offense, 305 of it through the air. This cannot continue if the Patriots want to contend for a conference championship. The Patriots were mostly benefactors of bad throws by Henne and special teams breakdowns, not because they imposed their will defensively. And despite the three picks, Henne still managed a rating of 81.4 thanks to 29 of 39 passing for 302 yards and two touchdowns. Bess had nine catches for 93 yards, while Marshall and Anthony Fasano had five catches each.
Offensively, Brady managed the game well, and Woodhead and Green-Ellis did well in the backfield. Both rushers averaged over 4 yards per carry. But the Dolphins managed to upset Brady with some good pass rushing, mostly from linebacker Cameron Wake, who had one of three sacks of Brady. Of the five touchdowns scored by the Patriots, only two of them were scored by the offense. This was a case where Miami did play well on defense, but other areas of the team let the defense down.
But the Patriots won't complain about these shortcomings until the following week. They will gladly take the blowout win. Especially Brady, who earned his 100th career win at quarterback in his 131st game, a new NFL record for the quickest to 100 wins in the Super Bowl era, breaking Joe Montana's record of 138 games. The Patriots are now tied for first place in the AFC East with the Jets, and have a renewed sense of confidence as well as a great deal of satisfaction over a win in a place they don't usually do well in.
The Patriots have plenty of time to celebrate this win, as they head into their bye week next week. They will have plenty of time to gear up for a rematch with the Baltimore Ravens, the team that blasted them out of the playoffs last year. There aren't any serious injury issues, so the team can concentrate on playing better defense and learning from what has transpired over these first four games where they have surrendered 96 points but are 3-1.
One last attempt at an appropriate headline: Cha-Chung! Patriots Win!
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